Prospect Update: Thomas Hatch’s 13-Strikeout Performance Signals a Shift
For the better part of this season, Thomas Hatch was not looking very impressive. He had trouble locating and was giving up too many runs. At one point, his ERA jumped above 6.00. I sat and watched him about two weeks ago and he was missing the catcher’s mitt by a foot. The one thing I liked from that outing, though, was the natural movement of his pitches.
I also noticed that Hatch looked a little different from when I first saw him pitch last year for Oklahoma State in the College World Series. He is now much more upright in the stretch, where he used to be in what I called a “Virginia crouch.” A more upright approach would offer less leeway for things to go wrong in his delivery, but might also take some getting used to.
In his past two starts, including one in which he struck out a baker’s dozen in 5.1 innings, Hatch has been very good. His 13-K performance could be a harbinger of things to come. I would not expect him to strike out double digits every night, but I do expect him to build on that big night as he grows more comforable.
Ht: 6′ 1″ Wt: 190
Draft: 2016, Round 3
School: Oklahoma State
22 years old
Great feel for pitching
FB 93-96 mph
Has four pitches
Strong mental makeup
Areas of Concern
Heading into 2017
After being drafted in 2016, Hatch finished up pitching 131 innings for Oklahoma State after missing most of 2015 with an injury that did not require surgery. As a result, the Cubs brass thought he had pitched enough and shut him down for three months. He later pitched in Fall Instructs in October and drew pretty good reviews.
That’s more or less how the Cubs handle all the pitchers they draft, guiding them to take it easy that first year. Usually, they throw a few innings in Mesa and then end up doing short starts of 2 to 3 innings the rest of the summer at either Eugene or South Bend.
Hatch went through none of the normal rites of passage for becoming a pro pitcher and the transition from college has not gone as smoothly as the organization would have hoped. After skipping three levels — rookie ball, short-season ball, and low class-A — he has some catching up to do.
For most of the last offseason, I hemmed and hawed about where Hatch should be placed to begin 2017. I originally thought Myrtle Beach would provide the best challenge, Cubs VP of scouting and development Jason McLeod thought that Hatch would/should be at South Bend and I acquiesced to his expertise. Things changed.
An injury to Oscar de la Cruz and Hatch’s own performance in Spring Training resulted in Hatch being placed with the Pelicans to begin the year. That is quite a steep learning curve for a young pitcher. Transitioning from NCAA Division I to advanced-A ball requires patience, adaptation, and skill.
For five innings on Sunday night, Hatch looked the best I have seen him, even better than during last year’s College World Series. He used his fastball and sinker deftly to strike out 12 in those first handful of frames. I was actually surprised he came back out for the sixth, as he was already at 83 pitches. He ran into some trouble, struck out his 13th hitter and gave up a double for the go-ahead run.
What I am taking away from his latest outing is that Hatch is adapting, albeit slower than some may have wanted. But you can see it. You can see how he is now attacking certain hitters and using his fastball instead of his secondaries to get strikeouts.
His transformation from college pitcher to pro pitcher is still not complete. When I look at the development of a prospect, I tend to look at splits, which are good for seeing how a prospect is doing over a 10-game period or a month-long period. Over June and July I expect to see improvement from April and May. That’s only reasonable. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to see his ERA for one of the next two months be in the threes. This is not gonna happen overnight and that’s okay. He will get there in due time.
All cards made from pics by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans